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Fear of Crime

Gender And Age

Although fear of crime is quite common in our society, it is substantially more common in some population groups than others. Women, for example, are significantly more prone to fear of crime than are men. The large difference in fear between men and women shows itself not only in self-reports of fear, but also in the behavioral repertoires of the sexes. Women, for example, are far more likely than men to report that they stay at home at night or that they avoid leaving the house alone. One of the factors that seems to underlie the differences between the sexes is the extraordinary fear that many women feel toward one crime—rape. Evidence indicates that rape is feared more than any other crime among younger women (those under about thirty-five years of age), that it is perceived to be approximately as serious a crime as homicide, and that rape is a "master offense" that lurks behind fear of other crimes (e.g., residential burglary, obscene phone calls). So central is rape to the fears of women that one is tempted to speculate that, for many women, fear of crime is fear of rape (Warr, 1984, 1985; Ferraro, 1996).

Fear of crime varies not only by gender, but by age as well. The evidence here is more complex, however. Early studies reported a simple positive relation between age and fear, but more recent, offense-specific, studies reveal that age differences in fear are apparent only for some offenses, and that even in those cases fear is not consistently related to age in a monotonic fashion. Using national data and aggregating over offenses, Ferraro (1995) found fear to be strongest among middle-aged individuals (ages forty-five to fifty-four in his study) and among the very youngest adults (eighteen to twenty-four).

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationCrime and Criminal LawFear of Crime - Perceptions Of Risk, Gender And Age, Altruistic Fear, Effects Of Fear, Bibliography